International Transgender Day of Remembrance

Olga SydorchukBlog, Uncategorized

Today and every day, SafeLink Alberta believes that we cannot support and advocate for communities without being a part of those communities. On days like today, we are reminded that communities are not a monolith, and that one person cannot represent an entire group of people. Although our blog posts are usually written by one individual on staff, today’s subject is personal for many of our team members; as such, below is a culmination of multiple voices:

November 20th marks the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day of memoriam for those who have lost their lives over the last year to misogynistic transphobic violence. In today’s blog post, we are discussing violence, hatred, and discrimination, which are subjects that may be activating for some of our readers. If activated, we encourage readers to engage in self-care, connect with someone you know and trust, or contact The Trans Lifeline. The Lifeline is a peer support phone service run by trans people for trans people. For allies, we encourage calling The Distress Centre.

The first Trans Day of Remembrance vigils took place in November 1999 to honour Chanelle Pickett, Rita Hester, and Monique Thomas, trans women of colour murdered for being who they were. Since then, TDOR events have been organized in 185+ cities globally and have inspired a multitude of intersectional trans awareness and rights actions.   

One such initiative is the Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) research project which gathers confirmed reports of death due to transphobia and produces a list of names to be read and honoured. This year, like years past, trans women of colour represent the majority of names honoured. While the names on this list are only those confirmed and reported, the TMM project acknowledges firmly that the “data does not include all reported cases worldwide, as not all trans and gender diverse murder victims are identified as trans or gender diverse in reports of their death.” TMM relies on 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations, activists, and advocates monitoring and sharing data with them. Numbers reported “must therefore be understood in the specific social, political, economic, and historical contexts in which they occur.” Therefore, it is impossible to estimate the numbers of unreported cases. Since TMM began reporting in 2008, 11 people have been listed who were killed in Canada, with two of these deaths occurring in the past year, and 4686 trans people have been killed globally. Today we honour Canadians Dani and Jayden, and all those who have lost their lives to transphobia:

Dani Cooper was a 27-year-old BC resident, poet, writer, and activist who was murdered by police during a wellness check on November 12, 2022. Their parents continue to call for better mental health resources to ensure that people like Dani aren’t failed by a society that lacks support for people struggling with mental illness and substance use.   

Jayden Miller, 11 years old, and their mother were both stabbed outside Crawfoot Plains school in Edmonton on May 5th, 2023. Police did not release information about their assailant other than he was caught and the police believed it to be a “random” attack. Community at the memorial held at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples and journalists report differently.  

We remember and honour them.    

We say their names.   

We take a moment of silence.  

And tomorrow, just like every day, we will be accountable, we will take action, and we will demand justice for all trans, two-spirit, and gender diverse people.   

We acknowledge all individuals who have died because of their gender identity or expression, perceived or actual. We also remember those whose murders were never reported, cared about, or whose cases were thrown out; whose files have been misplaced; whose names, pronouns, and identities were misrepresented in the media; those who died by suicide, or whose deaths were mislabeled as accidents; those whose murders or are still unsolved; those who died because of neglect by the medical profession, or as a result of not tending to their health and/or medical needs due to the fear of transphobia in medical spaces; and those who were unable to access shelters and froze to death on the street. We remember Missing and Murdered two-spirit women and girls. All individuals who have been forgotten or ignored; all individuals whose names were never put on the list to be remembered.  

At SafeLink Alberta, this day is a reminder that trans people are everywhere. Trans people continue to face the highest barriers and have the least support options available. We are aware from our roots in Harm Reduction, that trans people are often at the front of our movements, especially trans women of colour. Trans people fought for the rights of those living with HIV, trans people are on the streets fighting for those whose lives have been lost to drug toxicity, trans people send out calls to action to our local government, and trans people build community with and for each other and their chosen family. We are also reminded that transphobic violence is prevalent in our society and that hatred is perpetrated in multiple ways, including physical, interpersonal, and structural violence. Protests, online discourse, and proposed legislation across Canada are just a few examples of the ways violence is enacted towards trans individuals today. These are also some of the ways we, as accomplices, can be vocal in our support for the trans community.

With the rise in transphobic policies, rhetoric, and propaganda, we are starkly reminded that this day will not lose its necessity. We dream of a day where Trans people are nurtured, celebrated, cared for, and uplifted – a day where we will not need to remember, because there will be no lives lost to transphobia. Today, however, is a remarkably difficult time to be trans, a remarkably difficult time to be a trans person of colour, to be a Black and/or Indigenous trans person. Transphobia as an action is ongoing, and it is here. Let us not only remember, but fight for a day where we do not need to.  

The 2023 theme for World AIDS Day is “Let Communities Lead”. This approach is applicable in all conversations where those impacted are missing from tables where decisions are being made. “Nothing about us without us” includes engaging with the trans community in a meaningful and intentional way. Listen to what trans community members are asking for, listen to our stories, offer to shoulder the burden, be a shoulder to cry on, and add your voice to our calls. Today is one day of 365 that we should be committed to honouring, supporting, and loving our trans siblings. Consider what you will be doing for the rest of the year to follow the lead of trans elders, leaders, and advocates, and support local organizations (such as those community partners listed below) who continue to support the trans community.

For those wanting to gather in community, community members and advocates will be at Central memorial park for 24 hours, with speeches from community members and advocates at 6:00pm on November 20th. The event includes a name reading and vigil, allowing for community grieving of each individual so they are not remembered merely as a number that reflects hatred. The event also includes creative reflection activities, peer support options, and information sessions from local community organizations such as Skipping Stone Foundation, Calgary Outlink, and Center for Sexuality.